Please note Simone Leigh will be closed to the public on Friday, Feb. 23. Advance registration for the artist’s James T. Demetrion Distinguished Artist Lecture is at capacity. A standby line will open in the lobby at 5 pm on Friday, Feb. 23 to redistribute seats in event of no-shows.
Artist Simone Leigh is celebrated for a rigorous, multifaceted practice that centers the experiences, care, and labor of Black women. Leigh’s first full-scale survey exhibition is currently on view at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden and is composed of more than twenty years of work in sculpture and video, including works from her seminal presentation as the first Black woman selected to represent the United States at the Venice Biennale, in 2022. For a special one-night-only event, Leigh will sit in conversation with renowned scholar and longtime interlocutor Christina Sharpe. Sharpe is a prolific author, critic, and academic whose works include In the Wake: On Blackness and Being (2016) and Ordinary Notes (2023). Join us as Leigh and Sharpe discuss Leigh’s remarkable practice, its evolution of Black feminist thought, and how it seeks to acknowledge acts of labor and care, particularly among and for Black women.
This annual program is made possible by the Friends of Jim and Barbara Demetrion Endowment Fund, established in 2001 to celebrate Jim Demetrion’s seventeen-year tenure as the Hirshhorn’s second director.
ABOUT THE SPEAKERS
Simone Leigh (b. Chicago, Illinois, 1967) is informed by a disciplined attention to a wide swath of historical periods, geographies, and artistic traditions of Africa and the African diaspora and often combines the female body with domestic vessels or architectural elements to point to unacknowledged acts of labor and care, particularly among and for Black women. Clay forms the basis of most of Leigh’s artworks, including her bronze sculptures, which are first modeled in clay. The artist pushes the medium’s possibilities through scale and method, challenging conventional, hierarchical fine-arts histories, which can still attach to ceramics associations around women’s labor, decoration, domestic crafts, and utility. This exhibition traces the artist’s unique visual language through signature motifs, including cowrie shells, braiding, rosettes, face vessels, and eyeless faces. Through Leigh’s re-performing of these forms in varying materials and scales, new structures of thought and meanings emerge, each consistently centering the experiences and intellectual labor of Black femmes.
Christina Sharpe is a writer, professor, and Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in Black Studies in the Humanities at York University in Toronto. She is also a senior research associate at the Centre for the Study of Race, Gender & Class (RGC) at the University of Johannesburg. Sharpe is the author of Monstrous Intimacies: Making Post-Slavery Subjects (2010) and In the Wake: On Blackness and Being (2016). Her third book, Ordinary Notes (2023), won the Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Prize for Nonfiction and was a finalist for the National Book Awards in Nonfiction. She is currently working on What Could a Vessel Be? (FSG/Knopf, Canada, 2025) and Black. Still. Life. (Duke University Press, 2025). Her writing has appeared in many artist catalogues and journals.